Dear Gardener Gal: We are looking for foundation planting for the west side of the house which gets afternoon sun. We are looking for plantings that reach only 3 feet in height. We don’t mind pruning — just not several times a year.
We were originally talked into plants that grow 3-4 feet yearly. They require a lot of pruning and are bare close to the bottom. Do you have any suggestions? — Ken
Dear Gardener Gal: We bought a home in Pine Ridge four years ago and I made the mistake of planting Sweet Viburnum in the front of the house. We wanted a groomed hedge look. We realize we need to relocate them and plant something better suited that doesn’t need so much maintenance.
We enjoy reading your articles on Sundays. Thank you for any recommendations you can give. — Ellen and David
Dear Readers: These are just two of many letters I received after the column dealing with inappropriate foundation plantings. It is (apparently) a common complaint.
My suggestions for replanting or planning for a new build are going to veer away from geometric shaped hedges that must be pruned more than once a year. If that’s your thing — just look away.
I’m going to suggest primarily herbaceous plants rather than woody shrubs for a low maintenance, relaxed foundation landscape. What’s a herbaceous plant? Well, the category includes ornamental bunch grasses, African Iris, firecracker, flax lily, liriope, etc.
For this type of landscape to work, you will need to rethink the 3-foot narrow planting bed in the front of your house. A flowing (but easy to mow around) bed is what is called for. You’ll follow the old rule about taller plants in back, medium height in the middle and shorter plants in front, but stay away from straight rows of plants. Think drifts of the same plant instead and then overlap with contrasting plants also in a drift. Don’t go crazy and add a dozen different type plants. It is best to stick to maybe three different types that look good together and possibly a larger accent plant either in a large pot or in the ground. Depending on your home’s design, a small tree might be nice. Just make sure the tree is planted far enough away from the house and that the height in 10 years is what you expected.
If you still feel the need for a line of shrubs, then choose a shrub with a loose easy form such a Thryallis, Galphimia glauca or plumbago, Plumbago auriculata. Don’t try to make straight hedges out of them; give each plant plenty of room and just prune once, maybe twice a year to keep inbounds and enjoy the flowers they produce almost year round.
This is a newspaper column, not a full blown course in landscape design, so do your homework and Google up Florida-friendly plant lists and designs and then modify them to suit you, your home and your energy level.
Remember the number one rule: Right plant, right place. It takes a little planning, but will pay off in the years to come.
Dear Gardener Gal: I saw some snapdragons on the half price rack at a big box store. Is it too late to plant them? — Linda
Dear Linda: Yes, absolutely way too late — where did you see them? You don’t want to mess with snapdragons this time of year Linda. What color were they? Stay away from them — how many were left?
I imagine they are probably gone now anyway, so I’ll come clean: I never pass up snapdragons on the sale rack unless it is in March or later. I love them! The trick is to buy them hopefully in late fall or early winter and then give them a haircut. Cut off any buds or flowers, plant them in a sunny spot and then be patient. This spring and through early summer they will bloom like crazy. I add fertilizer and make sure they don’t get too dry, but they are really quite easy to care for with a big bloom pay off.
“Gardener Gal” Leslie Derrenbacker is a Master Gardener and native Floridian. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.